Institutional functional review - St Helena Fisheries Corporation
Crick has recently completed a functional review of the St Helena Fisheries Corporation (SHFC) – examining how this institution has performed in facilitating the operation of the island’s fishing sector, and what changes it needs to make, if any, to meet the challenges of increased economic activity on the island once the new airport goes into operation.
The SHFC was established as part of the project that Crick worked on during his first posting to this very remote south Atlantic island back in 1978 – as the market economist, and some-time tuna fisherman, on the project. Given the very small size of the island population (4,000) there is no effective market mechanism for setting prices, plus the government effectively sets wage levels, as the largest employer on the island. In the absence of market mechanisms, the SHFC is there to facilitate the adequate supply of fish to the island, to ensure that fishermen get paid enough for their efforts to allow them to continue to invest in the sector, and to enable the holding over of surplus production for distribution to the island market in times of scarcity, or otherwise for export.
Make no bones about it – this is a tightly managed economy. But as part of the development strategy for the island renewed efforts are being made to make the island economy more self-sufficient, spurred on in part by the development of the island’s first airport. More is being done to stimulate private investment, and to move to a more open economy. From a fishery sector perspective, SHFC sits in middle of these developments – acting as a go-between linking fishermen and the main island processor / exporter, being the main investor in a new venture fishing tuna on offshore seamounts, and promoting local consumption and high value exports. 2013 yielded the lowest landings on record, at a little over 100t of tuna – a combination of unfavourable oceanic conditions and the reality that many fishermen were lured away from the sea by more secure and better paying work onshore. This year things are looking distinctly up – the new boat MFV Extractor is bringing in fish from the seamounts, another new entrant, MFV Argonaut, is bringing in big fish from just beyond the inshore waters, and at least two other local vessels are being re-rigged to fish further offshore. And in the background SHFC is doing its bit to keep things running smoothly.